From “wild child” to equality rights poster girl, Jenna Talackova is taking on her new responsibility with pride.
The transgender beauty queen made international headlines after she was booted out of the Miss Universe Canada pageant earlier this year for not being “naturally born female.”
The 23-year-old Vancouverite successfully fought the decision with the help of famed American civil rights attorney Gloria Allred. The Donald Trump-owned Miss Universe Organization not only re-instated Talackova, but also allowed all transgender women to compete in its worldwide competition.
The leggy blond — who began taking hormone therapy at 14 and had sex re-assignment surgery at 19 — said she never expected to be hailed a hero by the transgender community, but she’s proud to have sparked a debate worldwide and inspired others to embrace their sexuality.
“I’ve received weekly mail from people in South America and Asia telling me that they’ve finally came out to their families because of my story so it has made an impact,” said Talackova, who is one of three grand marshals for Sunday’s Vancouver Pride Parade.
The other marshalls are drag performer and local activist Bill Monroe and, posthumously, community leader David Holtzman.
“I never realized the power that I did have,” she added. “I realized that as a youth, I was such a wild child that I wish I had somebody to look up to. I looked up to Harisu from Korea, the first transgendered pop star. I didn’t have anybody from North America to really look up to.”
Her decision to enter the pageant was “out of pure vanity,” but she says she won’t let her newfound role go to waste.
“I got thrown this opportunity to be a role model and I now have a reality TV show coming out that’s just going to broaden more the society’s eyes to transpeople and see that we’re just as normal as everybody else,” she said.
“I believe I got this role and I’m going to do my best with it, reaching out to young kids because it’s my obligation and I see that now.”
Talackova is also planning to take on more animal and environmental activism.
“I feel like we don’t treat our world correctly,” she said. “I think the pipeline project will just damage our environment I think we’re not looking for better energy sources.”
Talackova plans to pose nude for PETA after the first season of her TV series wraps up. She also aspires to become a Victoria’s Secret model.
After her grand marshal stint, she’s off to New York to film a commercial for high-end shoe company Stuart Weitzman.
She feels blessed with all the opportunities she now has and thankful for a strong support system that’s keeping her grounded.
“I keep my boyfriend of three years out of the limelight and he’s really happy for me,” she said. “My family believes in anything I do. They always knew I’d become something.”